It’s not just Britney Spears who is trapped in a guardianshipisolated from friends and family, with all personal, financial and legal decisions controlled by others.
In New York City, legendary pop artist Peter Max is also being held against his will in a legal guardianship, in which every aspect of his life is controlled by court-appointed aliens, his daughter Libra Max, 54, said.
She complains that she was not allowed to visit her 83-year-old father in the Upper West Side apartment that was her childhood home. She is only allowed to see him on a public bench in Riverside Park, and only for an hour at a time after requesting the appointment 48 hours in advance.
Tours are limited to three per week and can be canceled without explanation, as happened this week after speaking to The Post.
âHe is treated like a prisoner,â she said. “Every time I see him, which has to be approved and scheduled, he says, ‘Honey, please come up to the apartment.’ How many times can someone ask for companionship? He must feel terribly abandoned.
âI see his disbelief when I tell him that I cannot accept his invitation to come. . . . Instead, he ends up with a cast of weird nurses [who] are constantly changing and he does not know their names.
“My father [is a] Holocaust survivor. His deepest fear was that his friends and family would be taken away from him. ”
Max, a counterculture icon of the 1960s and 1970s, whose works are on display at the Museum of Modern Art, has an estimated fortune of at least $ 65 million. A close friend of the Rolling Stones, the German immigrant enriched himself by plastering his psychedelic patterns on postage stamps, cereal boxes, album covers, even a Continental Airlines Boeing 777. Nancy Reagan asked him to paint Statute of Liberty portraits at the White House, after which he helped raise funds to restore the monument.
Now he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was placed under guardianship in December 2016 after the court ruled he needed protection from the alleged physical, mental and emotional abuse from his second wife, Mary. .
Mary Max committed suicide at the age of 52, in June 2019, just before lawyer Barbara Lissner took over guardianship, when the former court-appointed guardian resigned.
Libra asked the court two months later to end the guardianship – but failed. Even though the reason for protecting Max had ended with Mary’s death, the burden of proof on those who want to end guardianship is onerous.
“Guardianship is eternal,” said lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a friend of Max’s since the 1990s, who was denied permission to visit him this week. “They never stop.”
Since Lissner’s appointment, Libra says, his father’s freedom has been severely restricted. Her beloved cats have been taken away and her friends are required to sign nondisclosure agreements before they can even speak to her on the phone.
Over $ 1 million a year was taken from Max’s bank accounts to pay for his care, which Libra claims to be excessive.
Max’s two previous tutors, who served from January 2018 through June 2019, billed $ 53,127 in fees over 18 months, while Lissner billed $ 598,654 over 13 months through July 2020, according to detailed accounting. prepared for court by Libra lawyer Linda Redlinsky.
By the time Lissner became Max’s guardian, he was receiving 24/7 home help at a cost of $ 528,039 in 2019.
Lissner hired additional RNs from Alliance Nursing Homecare for an additional $ 397,731.
Libra alleges that her father is a victim of the growing scourge of guardianship abuse and has enlisted the help of a dozen former friends and relatives, including hairstylist Edward Tricomi, Woodstock producer Michael Lang and former lover of Max’s longtime model Rosie Vela. , to ask the court to release him.
“This system of appointing guardians has become an automatic teller machine for some lawyers and guardians,” explains Dershowitz. âI’m sure many are well-meaning, but ‘family first, courts last’ must be the rule.
âI just feel bad for him. He’s my age and it could happen to me as easily as it happened to him. The only thing people like Peter need is loving contact with their children. . . . It’s so inhuman [to] hand it over to strangers who bill by the hour. Really, what harm would it be to have old friends and relatives sitting with him and chatting with him? ”
Lissner, the guardian of Max’s “personal needs”, declined to comment.
She and her husband, Michael, are partners with the Columbus Circle Lissner & Lissner law firm, founded by Michael’s late father, Jerry, to serve Holocaust refugees who had fled Europe.
The couple were criticized by the Bronx County Supreme Court in 2014 over a case in which they sought to be appointed financial guardians of an anonymous 94-year-old woman at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale.
“It would be an understatement to say that this tribunal is outraged by the behavior displayed by the interested parties,” the decision read, “of the parties who were supposed to protect the person, but who all demonstrated shamelessly by their actions” . . . that they are only interested in getting paid.
However, Lissner has the support of Libra’s brother, Adam Max.
Adam, who is in a separate legal dispute with his sister, disputes Libra’s claims about his father’s treatment and has opposed his attempts to end the guardianship.
“Peter is doing extremely well and receives regular visits from family and friends, including Adam several times a week,” said one of Adam’s attorneys, Matthew Seidner.
“Libra has feigned difficulty with guardianship for a long time.”
But Adam is also limited in his visits with his father, which must be scheduled in advance by the guardian, and Seidner could not explain why Libra was not allowed into his father’s apartment. .
Max’s 40-year-old friend, famous hairstylist Tricomi, confirms he couldn’t see his old friend the day Mary Max died. More than 40 phone calls went unanswered, and he says the doorman at Max’s apartment building told him the new caretaker would not allow friends to enter the apartment.
Recently, Tricomi was allowed to talk to Max on FaceTime, but says every time they speak her friend begs, âPlease visit me.
A sociable and hospitable man, Max has always hated being alone, Tricomi said.
âHe even called me to come see him paint. He would say, “I have a cappuccino and a brownie for you,” and I would play music and stay until two or three in the morning.
Max West 64th Street’s studio was always packed with people. âYou would go over there and find Keith Richards or Ronnie Wood hanging out, or President Clinton. There was always a certain celebrity in his studio.
But after Mary’s death, Max was forced to become a recluse. âThere is no reason on earth that he should have a guardian. This is a legal kidnapping.
Max’s former living partner Vela said they remain “best friends. [and] Over the past 30 years, we have spoken on the phone daily.
âAlmost a year ago, Ms. Lissner blocked me from all contact with my closest friend. I was not allowed to see or speak with Peter for 11 months. This year has been very difficult for all of us who love him, but it has surely been devastating for Peter.
Vela said that when she was finally able to use FaceTime Max this year, he begged her to visit him.
The removal of Max’s cats was particularly “cruel,” she said in an affidavit. âPeter’s animals have always been such a big part of his life. He loves them. ”
Max’s cousin, Susyn Gliedman, who grew up with the artist in Brooklyn, also complains that Lissner “stuck us all in her life.” He doesn’t deserve to be punished like that. . . Libra has always been the apple of Peter’s eye. . . She looks like her mother Sala. Depriving him of Libra care at his age is outright abuse.
“He needed a guardian to protect him from Mary when Mary was alive, but he no longer needs that protection.”
The U.S. system of court-appointed guardians was originally intended to protect the vulnerable and disabled elderly, but in some cases it has grown into a lucrative system for a network of lawyers, judges, and informal caregivers. scruples, who sell the assets of their burdens and control their lives without their consent.
The The Britney Spears affair made headlines when the 39-year-old pop princess called 911 to report herself as a victim of guardianship abuse, and went to court to dismiss her father as guardian. But abuse cases have been boiling in the courts for years. In 2019, former Nevada guard April Parks was charged with robbing hundreds of vulnerable people in her care and sentenced to 16 to 40 years in prison.
There are 1.5 million people in America under guardianship. If someone as rich and famous as Peter Max, along with many prominent friends, can be tricked, so can everyone.